Important note/disclaimer: I am not a doctor nor trained in any medical profession! If you are worried about a UTI, you should see your healthcare provider. I am sharing my own experience and why I chose to treat this myself instead of with traditional medicine. This is not applicable for everyone!
What is a UTI and Why Do Doctors Prescribe Antibiotics to treat them?
UTI stands for urinary tract infection. This basically means you have an infection in any part of your urinary system-kidneys, uteres, bladder and urethra. Most infections involve the lower urinary tract, namely the bladder and the urethra. Women are at a greater risk for developing a UTI. Symptoms of a UTI include: persistent urge to urinate, burning when you do, cloudy urine and pelvic pain. Not fun. UTI’s are caused when bacteria (that isn’t supposed to be there) enter through the urethra and multiply in your bladder. Forgetting to pee after sex, sitting in sweaty workout clothes, and ignoring your hygiene in general can all lead to getting a UTI. Here is a well written article explaining a UTI in further detail.
The urinary system is supposed to keep out these bad bacteria normally, but sometimes our defense system fails. Think of it this way-let’s say someone sneezes on you. That doesn’t mean you are neccesarily going to get sick, but if your immune system is weak, you have a greater chance of catching the virus.
How did I know I had a UTI and What Did I do?
How did I notice I had a UTI? I have not had one in forever…I recall getting a bad one when I was in high school several years ago. I remember I knew instantly because peeing was painful. I had the same feeling on Saturday morning of last week. I knew something was wrong. As soon as something feels “off” in my body, I am usually very quick to act. One of the reasons I was able to kick this thing pretty quick is because I noticed right away. I’ve heard horror stories of women not realizing they have UTI’s until they get really awful…so PSA- if if hurts to pee, it is worth getting a test at the drug store or going to see your doctor right away. I decided to get one of those at home test kits from CVS to make sure, and it came back positive. Off to Urgent Care I went.
Not suprisingly, I sat for an hour at Urgent Care before being seen (there is usually just one doctor on call at these kind of places, so even though they are convenient, it is a time consuming experience unfortunately). The doctor came back after looking at my sample and told me I had a UTI. He prescribed me with a 5 day course of antibiotics (Macrobid) that he said would wipe it out. Naturally, I had questions as taking any kind of drug especially a strong antibiotic should warrant some level of consideration. I wanted to know more about the antibiotic, but I did not get much additional information. He said that they would call me on Tuesday to give me the full results of my culture and ensure the antibiotics were working, but I should start taking them right away. There was not much else to say at this point, but in my head I was already wondering if there was a more natural route to go down. Despite my concerns, I went off to the drug store and got the prescription filled.
An hour later, there I was- sitting in my car with a bottle of pills in my hand, and I had this overwhelming feeling that the last thing I wanted to do was take them. I used to take antibiotics frequently when I had perioral dermatitis (horrible rash/bumps around my nose and mouth) and being on a constant cycle of drugs had a negative impact on my immune system. My gut flora was very depleted and I just felt awful. I found myself constantly getting sick and this caused me to take more nd more drugs. It was an awful cycle. Even though the antibiotics for my skin were a “low dose” doxycycline, it still had detrimental effects and made everything much worse (read more about that here). I haven’t taken antibiotics in two years and honestly- I have never felt healthier in my entire life. I decided I wanted to do everything I could to try and fight off the invaders myself-without the drugs. I put the pill bottle back and did some Googling.
I knew I had to start treating this thing right away if I wanted to start feeling better. It still really hurt to pee and I was starting to get cramps in my mid-section at this point. I was worried that the infection would travel up to my kidneys, as that is the main reason doctors tell you that it is required to get on antibiotics for UTI’s. Based on my research, I found some natural remedies. I drove to Whole Foods and stocked up. The most important item I got that I truly believe healed this infection is called D-Mannose.
How does D-Mannose help get rid of a UTI?
D-Mannose is a type of naturally occuring sugar. D mannose is present in several fruits, namely cranberry (anyone ever told you to prevent UTI’s you need to drink cranberry juice?) To treat a UTI you need to start ingesting three grams every three hours for the first 48 hours and you can reduce frequency as symptoms improve. The reason why this supplement is so amazing is that it actually attaches itself to the E.coli bacteria, causing them to stick to another instead of sticking to the walls of your urinary track. This allows the bacteria to be eliminated easily. This treatment is safe, and it can even help prevent getting future UTI’s which is a giant plus (source). This is the supplement I got which contains D-Mannose.
Other Herbs and Supplements that May Help
- Berberine: An alkaloid which can prevent UTI’s by inhabitating bacteria from adhering to the walls of the bladder
- Garlic capsules: Garlic has strong anti-bacterial properties that fights the bacteria safely
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C may help limit the growth of the bacteria by making the urine acidic (source)
- Echnicaea: Echinacea can be used to treat UTI’s and yeast infections because it helps boost immune function while simultaneously reducing inflammation
Other Tips to Help Cure the UTI
- Water, water, water! Drink so much water, and add lemon to it for the alkalizing benefits. The reason why you want to drink a lot of water is pretty self-explanatory. Essentially we need to flush out the bad invaders. You’ll be peeing a lot, but this is a good thing!
- Keep moving your body. Try to exercise, even if it is uncomfortable. You want to be doing some kind of activity-even if is light walking, yoga, or stretching. This will help get blood circulating through the body, and it is important for your immune system to stay strong during this time
- Tea Tree suppositories. This is exactly what it sounds like. A cap of tea tree oil up there is going to do wonders. I get these capsules from Whole Foods, and I use them for everything-irritation, itching, yeast infections, you name it. Tea tree oil is anti-bacterial and does a great job of fighting unwanted bacteria naturally
Why wouldn’t I just take the antibiotics instead of worrying about all this?
This is a fair question, and I understand that it may seem tempting to simply get a prescription and not have to worry about your symptoms. Unfortunately, any kind of antibiotic prescription has devastasting long-lasting impacts to your health, specifically your microbiome. Up to 50 percent of all antibiotics prescribed are not actually needed (source).
Instead of rushing to get antibiotics straight away, I recommend trying some of the above methods to see if it gets better on its own. If not, and you start to notice your symptoms get increasingly worse, then it is time to see a doctor and take the drugs. For myself, luckily, the pain was never too excruciating that I could not go to work or function. It was irritating, but I stuck with the above methods and now I am pretty much back to 100 percent. Your body was built to be able to heal on its own, as long as your immune system is strong and healthy. Keep in mind that antibiotic resistance is a huge problem and taking several courses of antibiotics without considering the long term impacts is not smart. Antibiotics work because they wipe out the bad bacteria, but these drugs do not pick and choose between bad and good bacteria. They kill everything. After a single course, your gut flora is pretty much wiped, which leads you vulnerable for getting more infections. If you do taking antibiotics, please, please take a high quality and strong probiotic (the kind that you need to put in the refrigerator). This is the best way to mitigate the damage!